Listen with Your Entire Being

Isaiah 55:2-3 says, "Hearken diligently unto me . . . Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live." That word hearken, the Hebrew word shama, means "to listen intelligently, to pay attention." This is distinct from the simple act of hearing; it means listening on purpose. The phrase incline your ear is the Hebrew word nata. It means to stretch or bend. It implies that you are doing something to cause yourself to yield. When we listen, we need to do it on purpose, intelligently, with our entire being.

In a previous article, I mentioned a study on the total message in communication. The researchers found that words make up only 7% of the total message. Inflection and tone of voice make up 38%, and body language and facial expressions make up 55%. If you're not really paying attention when your spouse or child is talking to you—if you're hearing their words but not looking at them and really listening—you will only get a small percentage of the total message. It's vital that we give our full attention to our spouses and children when they are talking to us.

Watch for Opportunities to Praise, Honor, and Reverence Your Spouse, Parents, and Children

Twice in the Psalms, we're told that praise is "comely." Putdowns are ugly. A young man should never put down his sisters. Why? Because he's training himself to do the same thing to his wife someday. Some young men use putdowns because they appeal to their carnal natures, to their egos and sense of importance. In a distorted way, it makes them feel like a big man. But if you really want to be a big man, be humble and praise others. Putdowns are ugly, but appropriate praise is beautiful, proper, and fitting.

I shared with a young lady how important it was that she honor her father so that she would know how to reverence her husband. Why is that so important? Because I have never seen a woman able to steal away a man whose wife was reverencing him. I've seen it tried and have watched it fail, because the reverence of a wife creates a powerful connection of communication that draws him to her and protects him from other women with wrong motives and wrong attitudes.

Plan Times and Settings Just to Communicate

Purposely set time aside just for communication. Have a date night with your wife just to talk. Men, we may not feel like we need this, but the truth is we need it more than we think we do. Deliberate communication brings balance to our lives. And your wife needs it because it gives her a feeling of intimacy, closeness, and oneness with you.

Husbands, when you cut off that communication or do not allow your wife to share her feelings, you're doing more than simply not listening to her. You are cutting her off as a person. You are starting a dangerous and destructive process, causing her to feel more and more like an object, instead of like the most important person in your life.

Parents should also make times to communicate with their children. The older your children get, the more important this becomes. Too often, as children enter the teen years, communication between parent and child diminishes. It should be the opposite.

Plan times and settings just for communication. Too many families don't sit down and have meals together, or if they do eat together, they're watching TV while they do. Make an effort to have family meals as often as you can. It's one of the best opportunities you'll have to communicate.

Watch For -- and Accept -- God-Given Opportunities

As parents, it's easy to feel too busy to take time out of the day to communicate with our children. But we need to realize that God sends opportunities that we need to take advantage of. I walked into the house one day, and one of my daughters came up to me and said, "Dad, would you like to see the dress I just bought?" Now, looking at clothes isn't exactly my favorite thing to do. But listening to my daughters is. I took the time to listen to how she had found the dress and the good buy she had gotten. We weren't discussing anything of earth-shattering importance, but it was a good opportunity to talk and build our relationship. Too often parents tell their children that they're "too busy right now" or are too self-absorbed to notice the everyday opportunities for communication that God sends their way.